House of Parliament / Palace of Westminster

House of Parliament / Palace of Westminster

One of the most recognizable symbols of the British capital, the Palace of Westminster and its iconic view from the Westminster bridge and The Thames are the first things that come to the mind of any person or even a schoolboy when asked about London. This tower-crowned architectural masterpiece standing on the left bank of The Thames belongs to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which is why the Palace of Westminster and the House of Parliament (as it houses the House of Lords and the House of Commons) are two interchangeable notions.

The palace's outline is so recognizable partly because of the towers, the most famous of which is the Elizabeth Tower, most commonly known as the Big Ben. No less noteworthy are the Victoria, Central and St. Stephen's towers that add to the importance and magnificence of the palace. Throughout its 900 year history the complex has seen a lot of major reconstructions. The first version of the palace appeared in Westminster in the 11th century. Up to the middle of the 16th century it was the King's residence in London. After the Great Fire of 1834 that spared only the Cloisters and the Jewel Tower a complete renovation of the building was carried out by a project elaborated by famous architect Charles Barry.

One of the amazing features of this architectural creation is the asymmetrical beauty of its four towers that gives a unique elegance to the exterior of the palace's facades. The complex consists of more than a thousand rooms and a hundred staircases, while corridors span would be somewhat 5 kilometers. The oldest site of the building is the 11th century Westminster Hall Cloisters, every UK citizen would love to have a chance to visit this place on a festive or ceremonial occasion. The most popular tourist attractions of the place are the King's Wardrobe, Gallery and chambers of the two Houses of Parliament. The palace complex also includes the 14th century Jewel Tower.

Due to the transparency of the British political system the visitors are allowed to be present at the open galleries in both chambers. On the dates of the Parliamentary sessions tourists can access the chambers and see for themselves how tense and explosive can British political discussion get when there's a pressing issue on the agenda. UK citizens and foreigners can book their tours during the recess dates of the Parliament for £25 (adults). Independent audio guided tours are cheaper. For more information on dates and booking of the nearest tour in your language click here. As a nice compliment after your visit to the palace you will be served some afternoon tea on a terrace overlooking The Thames (if you book the corresponding tour). Take a good look at the King Richard I equestrian statue located next to the palace. This man rising a sword in his hand is who the people called the Lionheart.

Address: Parliament Square, Westminster
Opening hours: during the sessions of Parliament Mon-Fri 9.30 am – 5 pm, closed on Sat, Sun. Tours are organized on Saturdays and during a recess.
How to reach: Westminster metro station; автобус 3, 11, 12, 24, 53, 87, 148, 211, 748, 750, 751, N3; Westminster Pier.
Coordinates: 51.49953, -0.12507